A very good question indeed


The former Labor Environment Minister, and a wistful reminder of the time when Labor had serious politicians, Graham Richardson, asks a very good question:

Just how did Australia fall from a position where power was so cheap and so plentiful to a place where we rely on the power of prayer and hope for benign ­weather conditions?

The short answer is the science of climate change as taken by the green religion, which is banishing fossil fuels in favour of renewable, while the latter technology is still a work in progress – unreliable, uncompetitive and unable to provide the base power. Call it Premature Energization. Instead of focusing all the efforts and resources on overcoming these technological shortfallings of green energy, the governments are subsidising its inefficiencies or forcing businesses and individuals to do so through the much higher power prices.

And so our climate activist media is celebrating milestones like “The ACT is now running on 100 [per cent] renewable energy”.  Well, no it’s not actually. What the ACT is doing is engaging in an accounting sleight-of-hand: it produces some solar and wind energy (about 5 per cent of its total electricity needs), which it then (when the sun doesn’t shine or wind does not blow) supplements with “dirty” power from neighbouring states, and in turn it offsets by feeding into the grid the equal amount of renewable energy mostly bought through the National Energy Market from other states . If the Territory relied only on its renewables, or for that matter renewables in other states, it would be dark and at a standstill most of the time, which arguably wouldn’t be a bad thing for the rest of Australia. The fact that it is running at all is due to the fact that the rest of Australia hasn’t closed down all its coal and gas power stations. This will continue to be the case until the battery technology is sufficiently developed.

As the bush fires continue to rage, Australia is facing more calls to turn the whole country into one big ACT. There is no global energy grid so we can’t actually buy the energy we need when the renewables don’t work, which is most of the time. All we do instead is use less and less fossil fuels and switch our power generation more and more towards wind and solar, resulting in the electricity prices continuing to climb, while the impact on the environment, including forest fires, is nil (the climate is global, our small emissions local).

Some on the left understand the economics but symbolism trumps all for people who can afford to pay higher power bills as a form of indulgences. As Jane Caro says, “at least we’d feel like we were doing something”, even if that doing something wouldn’t be actually doing anything for the environment.

There is another argument emerging to supplement Caro’s. As David Marr writes in “The Guardian”:

If Australia were taking effective action against climate change, this catastrophe would give us the right to demand better of the great rogue states on climate, China and the USA.

Put aside the fact that there is nothing that Australia can do that would classify as “effective” action against climate change – because even returning the country to the stone age would have zero impact on the climate – according to Marr we need to be “doing something” so we can have the right to demand those who really do have an impact on CO2 levels do something. Marr too is ready to send the power prices through the roof so that we, as a nation, can occupy the moral high ground. Of course it’s the average people who will pay the price so that David can feel good about himself. Again, this will not actually do anything for the environment, merely give us “the right” to badger others about their emissions. Not only is it a very expensive right to acquire, but what do you think are our chances of success? By way of a reminder, this is the state of emissions around the world:


Asia Pacific of course includes the developing giants like China and India. China, by the way, is building or about to start building coal power plants with a total capacity equaling that of the entire Europe Union. David, if you believe that China and India would sacrifice their fossil fuel-powered economic growth because Australia asks them nicely to so, I’ve got some fantastic bridge-sized carbon offsets to sell you.

Seeing how the overwhelming majority of the big fires raging around the eastern seaboard appear to have been deliberately started, if you want to “do something” I would suggest publicly naming and shaming the arsonists. It won’t do anything for the climate either but at least you won’t be paying a virtue tax through your electricity bill.

(hat tip to Tim Blair for inspiration with links)